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Sandia National Laboratories plans to open five U.S. regional test centers (RTCs) where the industry can assess the performance, reliability and bankability of large-scale photovoltaic energy systems.

"With the trend in the solar industry toward larger systems and greater capital investment - substantial amounts of money are going into this field - the financial community is increasingly scrutinizing how well these systems operate," says Charles Hanley, manager of photovoltaic and distributed systems integration at Sandia.

"The RTCs will provide enhanced monitoring and improved performance prediction capabilities for new technologies being introduced to the market," he continues.

The RTCs are a part of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) SunShot Initiative, a collaborative national effort to make solar energy cost competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade.

The DOE had asked Sandia and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colo., for RTC proposals. The DOE ultimately decided to fund physical and data monitoring infrastructures and validation plans at five locations in different climates, with Sandia and NREL working together on the overall project management.

Sandia manages four of the five locations with local partners: Albuquerque, N.M.; Orlando, Fla.; Burlington, Vt.; and Las Vegas. The fifth location is Denver, managed by NREL. The sites are in various stages of development, Sandia says.

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